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Pants Not Optional

An actual conversation which occurred earlier today at my house:

 

The boys are laying around in their underwear. It is 12:30pm.

Me: Boys, get dressed. We’re going to the store.

Gideon: Yes, ma’am.

A minute later.

Gideon: Do we have to wear pants?

Me: Yes, we’re leaving the house. You have to wear pants or shorts. And a shirt.

Gideon: Do I have to wear shoes?

Me: Yes, you have to wear shoes!

 

In his defense, Wash has been sick and we have been in the house since Monday afternoon. Still, pants are not optional.

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Questions to Ask

Recently, I have been thinking of two things: how we teach our children to think of others and how we train ourselves to do the same thing.

In a Bible study for parents my friends are doing, the author prompted them to teach their children to ask “What needs to be done here?” when they leave a room or enter it.

“What needs to be done here?” forces the speaker to think how they can contribute to the overall effort of the family to keep the house, of a group to prepare for a meeting, or simply to help another person complete a task. What needs to be done could be picking up, doing dishes, opening the door for someone, or offering to help with an ongoing effort.

Asking “What needs to be done here?” also teaches that someone must step up to solve problems and that person is often you. Be courageous and ask, “What needs to be done here?” even if that thing is out of your comfort zone. Be someone who contributes and not someone who only takes.

Yesterday, the teacher of my Bible study group told us to ask ourselves “How can I show love in this situation?” Like the previous question, it forces the speaker to look beyond themselves and ask what someone else needs. Answering this question honestly means placing the needs of the person before you above your own. It means working towards loving someone else when we may feel like reacting in the exact opposite way.

Something our children, and some adults still, need to be taught is that it is not all about them. In fact, it never is. This path we are on is about others. It is about how we can best show love to other people. This is the thing Jesus asked of us. He told us to love God and love others.

He did not say love when it was convenient, when we were being loved in return, or when we would get something out of it. He just said to love.

Next time you are in a situation with anther person and you are unsure what to do ask, “How can I show love in this situation?” or “What needs to be done here?” and then have the courage to respond.

 

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I know lying is wrong. It says so in the Bible. It was important enough to be in the Top 10 things To Do and Not Do, according to God. However, any good mom knows a little subterfuge is all a part of doing the job and doing it well.

Here are some examples.

Example #1

Over the year, my kids get a lot of candy. It all goes into gallon bags with their names on it in the pantry. Whenever they remember it exists, which is not every day, they ask to have some. If it is appropriate timing or I can use the candy as a bribe (eat all your kale), I do. My kids do not eat candy frequently enough to ever eat all the candy in our bags and I am certainly not going to eat all of it since I do not want to weigh 500 pounds.

What’s a good mom to do? I can’t just throw all the candy away. They would notice that. Kids are smart and sneaky, just like moms. We have to be smarter and sneakier.

I throw the candy away a little at a time. That way, the volume reduces gradually and they never know. You must be careful, though to throw the candy away in such a way that they will never know, which brings me to Example 2.

Example #2

Kids bring home two categories of trash. Stuff they make that is “priceless” and they want to keep forever and trash people give them. You know what I mean by the latter. Cheap toys that break within 5 minutes, decks of cards with cards missing, rocks, broken rubber bands, twisty ties, jar lids, and kid’s meal toys. You know, all the stuff they never want to get rid of.

If you are not careful, your house will be like Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout‘s and you will drown in garbage. To avoid this, while your kids are out of the house, choose a handful of the trash items and throw them away. Warning: Do not simply toss them into the trash can. You have to bury them under other trash or put them in a bag and throw them away.

People without kids are now thinking I am one crazy, paranoid lady, but let me tell you that every time a kid throws something in the trashcan, they spend a looooong time peering into that can. They know something fishy is going on in their house. If they see even the spec of some beloved item/piece of trash actually in the trashcan. All. hell. will. break. loose. Bury that stuff deep and put some smelly garbage on top of it for good measure.

I am not even going to cover all the things we regularly tell kids which are out and out lies: Santa, the Easter Bunny, or why they can’t watch Thomas the Train. My friend hated Thomas so much she told her two-year-old Thomas was not on TV anymore or Netflix or anywhere. I laughed and was sorry I did not think of that first.

Happy Parenting!

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Leeeegzzzz!

We like to play games at our house. Ries and I have always liked games, but some friends of ours introduced us to the world of Euro and Indie games a few years ago (Thanks, Robin and Philip!). If you are stuck on Monopoly and Life, you need to do some searching around.

We started building our game collection. It is nothing fancy, but we have some great games: Munchkin, Rukus, Ticket to Ride, Lords of Waterdeep, Odin’s Ravens, and Cards Against Humanity are favorites. If you want to watch some of these games in action, I suggest watching some episodes of TableTop. With some birthday money, I added The Resistance and Zombie Dice to our collection.

I bought Zombie Dice because I thought it would be a game the boys could play and I love zombies (who doesn’t?). I was gone last night to a women’s dinner at church and the boys played with the Zombie Dice.

After the game, Zombie Wash caught Gideon and the following happened:

Wash, chewing on his brother’s leg: I am a zombie, I am eating your braaaaaains.

Gideon: That’s my leg, not my brain.

Just another night at our house folks, where dice games degenerate into the flesh eating zombie horde.

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Being a writer means getting familiar with rejection. Most rejections are form rejections editors and agents send out by the dozens of hundreds. If you are lucky, you will get a personal email with individual regrets. The personal email is, I have found, even more painful to receive than the impersonal one because it means they like your story a lot, but they did not like like it. If you are very lucky, you will receive a revise and resubmit or an offer to direct submit next time.

I am not what you might label a patient person. If I had to choose my two worst traits, the ones which have caused me the most damage, it would be my lack of patience and my overabundance of pride. God will be working on these thorns for the rest of my life. I can honestly say I improve marginally as the months and years go by but the learning process stinks.

I have, without a doubt, chosen a profession in which patience and humility are required.

I have been querying publishers, the fancy publishing word for sending my manuscript or parts of it out with a letter, for almost a year. During that time, I have continued to write and learn about the publishing industry. It has been a year in which I have doubted, dreamed, and hoped.

When I needed it most, God blessed me with encouragement in the form of a woman I met in my women’s Bible study on Tuesdays.

Pam is an older lady, wise in her years, who always has a smile for people. She is one of our greeters and helps get everything set up on Tuesday mornings. I do not know her very well, we have never been in a small group together, but she is always kind and friendly.

One morning this past January, Pam pulled me aside after leader’s prayer and encouraged me to keep writing and to believe in myself. She asked if I had ever heard of Debbie Macomber. I said of course I had. Pam continued to tell me Macomber’s story, how she struggled for years to be published before finally getting a break and how she is a Christian who chooses purposefully to write mainstream fiction. Pam’s kind words made me smile and hope.

I went home after Bible study and looked up Debbie Macomber’s blog on which she was posting about her word for the year. It is a word she uses to center her life and walk with Christ each year. What a beautiful idea.

Later that day, I received my first rejection letter, a form letter, from my first choice publisher. Rejection, as I said in the beginning, is the norm in publishing, not an offer call. Though I had been expecting to see it in my inbox, it still made me doubt this path I had willingly chosen. My doubt spiraled downward into a pit.

Then, I remembered how, only a few hours earlier, God had placed Pam in my path to encourage me on this day, at this time, so I would know and not doubt. From then on, when I wavered in my conviction, I remembered God had been good to me on the very day I received my first rejection from the publisher and editor I admired so much.

It was not my last rejection letter. I have received many others. They were disappointing but none stung the way that first one did, until now.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an email in my inbox from an editor asking if my manuscript was still available. I did a snoopy dance and told her it was. We had a nice email exchange and she said she would get back to me. I was hopeful again, but cautious. The publisher was on the top of my list and would be perfect for my blended genre novel.

I waited two weeks. We were in the car on the way home when I read the email. The answer was not the one I had wished for. The editor was kind and offered a direct submission for my next work, which is wonderful and gratifying, but it did not make the rejection hurt less. Being liked, but not like liked is awful and I felt awful, sad, and frustrated. I was grateful to the editor who spend her time reading and responding to me personally, but I was hurt regardless.

I was silent most of the way home. I climbed out of the car, dejected and tearful. Ries went to the mailbox with Gideon and I heard him say I had a package. I could not remember ordering anything, but it was likely I had just forgotten about it. He handed me an Amazon box. In the return address label space was the name Pam.

Inside the box was the book Once Upon a Time by Debbie Macomber. In it, Macomber talks about the writing process and how God tells a story though each of us. It was just released on May 28th, Pam ordered a copy and sent it to me, and I received it the same hour I read the rejection from the editor.

Twice, when I needed encouragement and a reminder the most, God sent it to me through Pam’s kindness, a rainbow on a dreary day. Twice, when I doubted the most, He told me to be patient, to wait, to be humble, and to continue on. The beauty of Pam’s encouragement was the rainbow I needed that day and a blessing from God.

I am looking forward to seeing Pam so I can give her a huge hug and tell her how she has blessed my life, again. I have many more lessons to learn, lessons of perseverance and patience, but I know I never learn them alone.

“I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.” – Genesis 9:13

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Some things you know intellectually, but you do not know until you are neck deep in it. Parenting is like that. Before you have kids, you hear stories and you think you know, but you have absolutely no idea. None.

Before you have a baby, people tell you all kinds of things about how much you will love them and think they are perfect, wonderful, intelligent human beings even when all they do is blow spit bubbles all day. You think you know.

But then you hold them and your whole world explodes. You finally know what it is to love something in a visceral way. You know that you would do absolutely anything to give the moon to this tiny person. Anything.

Eventually, you realize that being a parent is a whole series of not really knowing things. It is a thousand moments of your world exploding: when they take their first step, when they reach for you after being separated, when they hug you for the first time, when they say “I love you” in that tiny voice, when they pick you flowers, or draw you a picture.  Every time you come to know something new, your heart crumples.

As they get older, you start to know different things, things that make you crazy, make you pull your hair out, or make you wish it was acceptable to drink at 10am. It is still not OK to do that, right?

Before I became a mom of two, I knew there would be extra whining, fighting, and mess. But I did not know.

There are days that I know I am crazy, when the laundry never gets folded, there are matchbox cars literally everywhere, when I have wiped each bum in this house multiple times, the dishes are overflowing from the sink, I manage to write some words, and dinner only gets made by some miracle.

Even on those days, at the end we will be snuggling into bed to read and sing and I will feel little arms around my neck and small lips meet mine. Then, my world explodes and I know how blessed I am to be the mom of two small, wonderful, amazing, and intelligent boys and I would do anything to give them the moon.

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I recently shared with you that Gideon believes that Mom does “all the things.” I have further evidence to support this idea.

Wash is an adorable 18 month old chap. He does everything his brother does (no matter how naughty), eats like a man determined to gain weight (he IS growing), and still only has 5 teeth (though he is working on two more). What he does not do yet is talk. Much.

He says some words: Ma. Da. Daw (dog). Mo (milk). Sna (snack).

Every once in awhile, he will say a word, like “down’ or “papa”, but then not repeat it again for a week or two. What is the most amusing, is his use of the word “ma.”

“Ma” means a lot of things. It means Mom, obviously, but it also frequently used to indicate the following:

  • Hey, look at me.
  • Look over there.
  • Put on my shoe.
  • Put this sock on my foot.
  • Gideon won’t stop laying on me.
  • Gideon won’t stop tackling me.
  • I want some milk.
  • I’m hungry.
  • I want a bath.
  • I’m ready for bed (this is accompanied by him man-handling my chest since bedtime is the only time he is nursed).
  • I’m excited! And yelling!
  • I peed in my diaper, please change me. Also, there may be poop.
  • My hands are dirty because I got tired of using my spoon for the yogurt.
  • My water is gone, please fix that.
  • The TV is not on. That needs to change.
  • Look at the ridiculous thing this Elmo kid is doing! Mr. Noodles is an idiot.

Ma can mean many things. Why? Because Mom does all the things.

This would be sad and tragic if I had a husband who was uninvolved in the house and our boys. That could not be farther from the truth. I am blessed with a man who does many, many things around our house and who adores spending time with his boys.

It has become the family joke, that I do all the things.

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